By: Thabit Pulak

So now you are at Duke — one of the world’s best research universities — but now what? You might be taking cool classes, but how can you take advantage of the world-class research happening here? Roughly 50 percent of Duke undergrads do so at some point. Getting involved in research as a freshman might sound intimidating (I know it did to me!), but a little luck and perseverance can get you off to a strong start.

Alan working in Dr. Eroglu's laboratory.

Alan working in Dr. Eroglu’s laboratory.

I had the opportunity to talk with Duke freshman Alan Kong about his experiences trying to get into research labs, and how he successfully ended up finding one to join. Alan is considering majoring in biology whilst on the premed track.

He initially started to look into labs within a month of  starting classes at Duke. He spent about two months sending out emails to professors who were working on interesting projects.

“It was a very frustrating search, and initially difficult. I emailed five professors, and emailed each many times,” Alan said. “But perseverance ultimately paid off.”

Alan now works in the lab of Dr. Eroglu who is an assistant professor of cell biology, associated with the Duke School of Medicine. According to the Duke Institute of Brain Science website description, Eroglu’s laboratory “is interested in understanding how central nervous system (CNS) synapses are formed.”

Alan was also accepted into two others labs, but ultimately felt Dr. Eroglu was the best fit. “I picked Eroglu because her research was very interesting, and relevant to my interests,” Alan says. “I felt I could learn more interesting techniques in research, such as working with live animals.”

Now, Alan has been working in Dr. Eroglu’s lab for a month. When I asked him how it was going, with a smile he exclaimed, “It’s great!”

“Right now I am learning techniques such as genotyping, western blot. I even took out the retina of a rat!” Alan said. “I am learning the ropes of the lab, and my mentor said that down the road, if I learn properly, I can eventually work on my own independent project!”

When asked for any advice for other students thinking of getting into research, Alan said “Persistence is key — don’t give up! It’s a difficult process; don’t let small things get in the way. Keep trying until you find one.”


“Persistence is key – don’t give up!” Alan says

Learn more:

More information regarding Dr. Eroglu and her research:

List of all Duke Faculty affiliated with Cell Biology with contact details:

Summer research opportunities in math and statistics:

Research opportunities in biology:

For other research and summer opportunities visit

For a list of research opportunities across the sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences visit: